Celebrating 20 years in show business this year, West End icon Kerry Ellis who is famous for her roles in Wicked, We Will Rock You and countless famous productions, is stepping into her first straight acting role in the UK tour of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest.
“This is the perfect play to start with,” she told me. “I’ve always been really busy doing musicals and concerts so I’ve never had the opportunity or time, and it’s such a funny and well-known play.” Kerry is taking on the role of Gwendolen in the comedic production that is about mistaken identity. “She is upper class and her mother Lady Bracknell, who is played by Gwen Taylor is a force of nature,” Kerry explained. “It is a farce, a light-hearted comedy and about the way people misinterpret situations and it is all done whilst we drink tea which of course is very British, traditional and funny.”
Kerry is relishing in the challenge but expresses the huge differences between working on a straight play as opposed to a musical. “It is a different world, there is no support of a band, you are on your own and the cast is a lot smaller. But this production does take me back to my My Fair Lady days as it is that sort of era,” she said. “The rehearsals are a lot shorter, we have had two weeks, and in a musical, you have all the time to sort the music and orchestrations. Whereas in a play it is half the time, but it has been exciting and intense.”
Everybody is familiar with Oscar Wilde’s play, but Kerry mentioned how ironically she never studied it at school. “I did a bit of Shakespeare but it was relatively new to me, I knew the story but it was exciting to get my head around as it is almost like a whole new language,” she said. “There are a lot more sayings from Oscar Wilde that I had no idea were his quotes, he is on a lot of birthday and Christmas cards.” Kerry expressed how she is hoping she will also bring a slightly different audience to the play too, as people who follow her in musicals will see her explore new work.
With lots of productions of the show circling the UK and beyond, Kerry emphasised how with they version they are trying to keep it very traditional but push the boundaries a little, making it more extravagant. “We’ve hardly made any edits to the script, I don’t think a very traditional version has been done in a while, but the costumes are amazing and a little more than you’d expect,” Kerry explained.
Alongside doing The Importance Of Being Earnest, Kerry is touring the UK with her 20th-anniversary concert where she will be going back and telling the story of her career with the musical numbers she is so well-known for. “It’s great because alongside the play I get to do a bit of singing as well, I can’t believe it has been twenty years and so this concert is great as I have the freedom to sing anything,” she said.
With an unbelievable career, it is undeniable that Kerry is a West End legend. “I’ve been so fortunate,” she said. “I’ve had some amazing highlights throughout my career. I got to go to Broadway, open several shows on the West End, I’ve had albums out, toured the world, done concerts all over the place. Plus I’ve got married, had a family and I really think I have this balance that you constantly thrive for.”